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BLOG: Reduced capacity at Rogers Place

The Oilers are preparing to adjust to reduced capacity crowds at Rogers Place starting Saturday against Ottawa

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Rogers Place isn't going to be an empty arena like it was during the National Hockey League hub city bubble, but will have many seats unfilled when the Edmonton Oilers resume their schedule Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

It won't be as barren as Scotiabank Arena was when the Orange & Blue completed a five-game road swing versus the Toronto Maple Leafs in front of an empty spectator area on Jan. 5. Nonetheless, Connor McDavid and Co. are prepping to play with a 50 percent capacity crowd for the time being.

"There are higher powers and that's something that we just got to deal with," the Oilers Captain said Wednesday after the team returned to practice. "I know Ontario is back in lockdown and Quebec is going through their thing. It's frustrating but we follow the rules and we'll play the games when they tell us to play then go from there."

Video: PRACTICE | Up and Going 01.12.22

A player's performance doesn't hinge on the atmosphere of an arena or the passion of a fan base but the seventh skater can certainly help motivate. Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett has worked the bench for enough games - with or without bodies in the building - to draw the comparison.

"It is different playing without fans; I'm just being dead honest," the coach said. 

"The atmosphere in the building is different. It looked like we were getting back to normal and now we've taken a step back. Hopefully, we can get back to normal for the stretch drive and everything turns into exciting hockey like everybody wants, and get in a rhythm the way the players want."

Last season, without fans permitted in the arena, the Oilers went 16-12-0 at Rogers Place in North Division action and held a 19-7-2 record away from Oil Country. While it's not ideal for the players or fans, Tippett and the team are accepting the rules and hoping they don't last long.

"You deal with the situation that you're in," the bench boss said. "Players are geared. They want to get in rhythm and play. That part of it is a challenge. You can only practice so much every day with your team in flux but we're not the only team like that."

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 01.12.22

The province of Alberta imposed new restrictions on Dec. 21, 2021, which affected the attendance of the IIHF World Junior Championship before it was cancelled.

Oilers Entertainment Group Executive Vice President of Communications & Gaming Tim Shipton has collaborated with the government since the restrictions were enacted and shared information about the situation to 630 CHED Mornings Host Daryl McIntyre.

"Where we're at today is, we're allowed to host 50 percent capacity at Rogers Place and we've got very limited food and beverage," Shipton said. 

"No food and beverage right now in the bowl but we are allowed some food and beverage in restaurants within the building such as Studio 99, Molson Canadian Hockey House and a few other locations. We're back to some unusual operating conditions, for sure."

It's been a game-by-game balancing act as the organization hopes to host events with seats filled safely while also ensuring club personnel can continue the campaign without stops and starts on the calendar. 

"We want to play games in front of full buildings and we want our fans," he said. "The flip side is the team as well. No NHL team wants to be sitting around for a couple of weeks and not playing hockey, in particular at a time in the year when there's supposed to be a game almost every day."

Video: RAW | Connor McDavid 01.12.22

A main focus for the franchise is communicating ticketing updates to season seat holders and fans, while also preparing for a revised schedule to come from the League after nine Oilers games were postponed.

"Right now, we're assigning tickets and when we do reach that capacity, what we can do is give our customers other options for other games," Shipton said. 

"We'll be making up a significant number of those games during the Olympic break. Right now, it does look like a full 82-game season and not a compressed or condensed season. The silver lining to all of it is we're going to have a heck of a lot of games this season and a heck of a lot of home games as well, in particular in January and February."

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